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Egypt Frees Opposition Leader Ayman Nour

Egypt has freed opposition leader Ayman Nour, who had been jailed for more than three years on charges he said were politically motivated.

Nour told reporters at his home Wednesday that he was released without warning. He said he intends to resume leadership of his Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) party and continue his work in politics.

The former presidential candidate and leading dissident had been in prison since late 2005, when he was convicted on what he calls trumped-up charges of forgery.

Prosecution sources say Nour was released for health reasons.

A U.S. State Department spokesman welcomed Nour's release, calling it a positive step on the part of Egyptian authorities. The United States had been calling on Egypt to free the opposition leader for some time.

Nour ran against President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005, and placed a distant second. He was put on trial several months later.

Nour's imprisonment has strained relations between Egypt and the United States. After his conviction, the White House was sharply critical of his detention, as were Democratic leaders in Congress.

Nour, a former member of parliament, was first arrested before the 2005 election but was released long enough to campaign for the presidency. He was re-arrested before his trial and was sentenced to five years in prison. His supporters say his trial was politically motivated.

Prison officials banned him from publishing articles from prison, and recently restricted his ability to communicate with his family.